catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 3, Num 16 :: 2004.10.08 — 2004.10.21


"His Body, broken for you"

A most amazing thing happened to me at church this Sunday. My mind was running in a hundred directions at once as I prepared to share with the congregation about the small group my wife and I are leading this fall, and because we are also the small group coordinators, I was trying to mentally corral everyone else’s responsibilities and concerns. In the midst of that, I hadn’t given a second thought to the pastor’s request that I help serve communion after the sermon. But there I was, holding the loaf of bread as a stream of people stood waiting to receive the body of Christ and to affirm themselves as one of the body of Christ.

“His Body, broken for you,” I said, echoing the words I had heard so often over the years. “His Body, broken for you,” I said to the second person, who tore off a piece of bread to dip in the wine the woman next to me held. “His Body, broken for you,” I said again, as the third person looked me in the eyes and smiled an affirmation.

“His Body, broken for you.”

“His Body, broken for you.”

“His Body, broken for you.”

I do not know if it is a particular failing of mine or if it is ingrained in the human condition, but most of the time I repeat a phrase it begins to lose meaning. “Have a nice day,” I said to countless customers when I worked as a drugstore cashier. “How’s it going?” I say to friends every day. Even “I love you” becomes somehow perfunctory when signing off on the telephone with family. It had never occurred to me that to repeat the communion blessing would be anything more than ritual. But it was more like a meditation, becoming deeper and more meaningful with each repetition.

As I looked at the faces of people processing past me, as I told them each that Christ’s body was broken for their salvation, the magnitude of Christ’s love seemed almost tangible. The small feeling of joy I felt at serving fifty or so friends, people I know in varying degrees of depth, gave me just a sliver of an idea of what God experiences when he extends his saving hand to billions of people he knows through and through. Such joy would burst me.

“His Body, broken for you,” I said, and as I gripped the husk of the bread I could feel fingers tear out pieces of the soft interior. It’s a forcible, almost violent gesture that brings me back to the cross, to the swarm of brutalizers and gawkers who peck away, stripping his flesh and his dignity. We are each complicit in his death as much as we are recipients of his grace; that his body would be broken for us even as it was broken by us is the miracle of salvation.

“His Body, broken for you,” I said, and I began to wonder who I was to deliver that message. Here I was standing up and identifying myself as a leader, feeling pretty good about myself, and only then was I blindsided by the truly awesome nature of church responsibility. I’d been consumed by administrative detail and organizational structures and lost sight of how unbelievable it is that I should serve someone on behalf of God, that it’s even possible that the love of Christ could flow through me toward others.

“His Body, broken for you,” I said, and I began to speak the words as distinctly and personally as I could. I knew I’d passed through similar lines hundreds of times and heard those words over and over, and from one week to the next it was the same thing. But with my voice I tried to say: “Can you believe it? Don’t you know what this means? The Lord of the universe humbled himself to become human and suffer and die, and it is only because of that that we live! Can you imagine?” It’s like a mentor of mine told me: you never really understand something fully until you explain it to someone else.

I was so glad that I hadn’t had time to think about serving before it was right on top of me; if I had prepared and thought about the experience, it would have likely been diminished. Instead it caught me off guard; the adrenaline of the moment and the sharp tang of wine in my mouth put my senses at their most heightened. I was fully in the moment. I don’t expect that subsequent servings will be quite the same as this first time. But neither do I expect that communion will be quite the same again.

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